The Machine Stops
In The Machine Stops, E. M. Forster projects life years from now where people live underground with extreme technological advances. Also, people live separated in little rooms where they find a variety of buttons they can press in order to perform any task they desire. They do not communicate with people face to face as often as we do now. Without a doubt, their society is very different from ours. All of the inhabitants are used to living along with the Machine and it is hard for them to imagine life without everything the Machine is able to facilitate.
People are so caught up with technology that they find it absurd to spend time in nature. Because of the dependence people have towards the Machine, they have somewhat lost their humanity and become a machine themselves. The characters Vashti and Kuno perfectly represent how inhumane or humane a person could potentially be in such an environment. Vashti and Kuno play the two major roles in The Machine Stops. Vashti is Kuno’s mother but despite this, they do not live together or even near, they were separated little time after Kuno was born.
Vashti lives in the Southern Hemisphere and Kuno lives in the Northern Hemisphere which is on the other side of their underground society, therefore, they rarely see each other. In order to communicate they talk from time to time using a device that permits them to see an image of each other. One thing that is rapidly noticeable about their relationship is that Vashti does not get exited when talking to her son; she gets very impatient and wants to finish the conversation as quickly as possible. Like most people, Vashti stays in her room the majority of the time and then goes back to sleep.
Even though she does not do much with her life, when her son Kuno asks her to please come visit him to the Northern Hemisphere she says she does not have time to do that. It is weird to see this kind of behavior coming from a mother because mothers usually worry a lot for their children and try to dedicate as much time as possible to them. At last she decides to visit him and uses the air-ship as transportation. As Vashti expresses her experiences in her journey, one notices how inhumane and out of touch she and everyone else is.
She is shocked when a man dropped his book and he, himself, picks it up from the floor without any help from the Machine. Vashti becomes very anxious because she is not used to this type of behavior and neither talking or interacting with people. It was three months ago the last time she actually had a face to face conversation with someone and so feels very intimidated and scared. “People were almost exactly alike all over the world, but the attendant of the air-ship, perhaps owing to her exceptional duties, had grown a little out of the common.
She had often to address passengers with direct speech, and this had given her a certain roughness and originality of manner. ” (p. 118) Because she was feeling uncomfortable in this voyage she finds support and comfort by touching and reciting to the Book which is a manual that teaches people how to function the Machine. Vashti also became annoyed when a ray of sunlight was touching her; the attendant had to move her to another seat because of all her complaints. Apparently, Vashti tripped and the attendant grabbed her with the intention of helping Vashti.
When Vashti felt her touch she became even madder and more uncomfortable with the whole situation. Because of her mechanized, close minded, and unlovable character Vashti could very well be considered as an inhumane woman. She does not think for herself and accepts the Book and the Machine as her way of life Even though there are people that are completely obedient and devoted to the Machine, there are some that are not; like Kuno. Vashti explains that since he was born, everyone noticed that he was going to be someone very special. And so he was.
Kuno formed part of a very small percentage of people in his society that had a mind of their own and knew that a machine was not worth worshiping because it is something created by man. Kuno was the type of person that would go against what was already established; some considered him a rebel. One thing he went against, for example, was the thought of engaging activities outside surrounded by nature; people in his society though this was not necessary at all. Kuno was an adventurer; he was passionate and had his own original personality.
Kuno was not satisfied with what he was surrounded with; he believed people needed to interact more with each other and stop worshiping the Machine that had everyone hypnotized. For some people the Machine was everything. People who believed the Machine was everything said, ‘The Machine’ they exclaimed, ‘feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine. (p. 132) Imagining life without the Machine was impossible for the majority of the people but definitely not for Kuno. He thought that life would be better without the Machine and all the technology that kept it working. “Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that this is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? ” (p. 127) Kuno thought that because of the people’s constant worship to the Machine, they were loosing their entity and therefore their being.
Because Kuno was in search for happiness he proposed himself to escape from what made him unhappy: the Machine and all that had to do with it. One day he found a way out of his underground society and was able to experience nature; what normal humans are supposed to experience. Because he went out without permission from the authorities they threatened him with “Homelessness” which practically meant death. When he explained his actions to his mother she was horrified and could not belief that he had betrayed the Machine.
But two years pass and Kuno had not been exposed to “Homelessness” yet; during these years more people accepted Kuno’s beliefs towards the Machine. These two years were also crucial to the people because they started noticing that the Machine was starting to fail them on simple tasks that were usually fixed rapidly. People became frenzied. The Machine was like a god to them and they could not deal with the thought of it failing. At the end the Machine stopped working. Everything was silent and dark, something they had never experienced.
Kuno and Vashti were able to find themselves in the dark and being a good son he tried to calm Vashti. “They could not bear that this should be the end. ”(p. 139). Everyone was hysterical because they had no idea the Machine could actually fail them. They were never able to understand that the Machine was man-made and was therefore imperfect like humans. Kuno and Vashti talk and kiss each other and Kuno explains that even though they are going to die they have never been so alive. In this book, Forster is able to portray a reality that could become true if e, human beings, keep depending on technology for survival. Although it is very distressing that people became dependable to the Machine to the extent where they loose their humanity and become like a machine as well, with no mind of their own. It is incredible how people were not able to survive when the Machine stopped working; it is understandable that people nowadays will also have a hard time surviving without technology since we were born into a technological world. But the World will be well when people like Kuno remind humans what is really important in life.
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